Latest posts by Dermot Davitt (see all)
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A pioneering force in travel retail for the past 38 years, Dubai Duty Free is leading from the front in other ways this week.
Last Saturday the company hosted the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, which was the first major sporting event in the country to attract 1,000 spectators since lockdown rules eased recently. This week, it is title sponsor to another pilot event that welcomes back fans to sport: the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, with 5,000 guests a day allowed into the main tournament from today (1 July) at Mount Juliet in County Kilkenny.
Wednesday saw the appetiser to that event take place, with the staging of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am. Taking part were top Irish professionals such as Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and well-known names including rugby star Johnny Sexton, hurling legends DJ Carey, Henry Shefflin and Davy Fitzgerald, former Tanaiste Dick Spring as well as Coronas lead singer Danny O’Reilly.
The Moodie Davitt Report was there too. I was an honoured playing guest on one of Dubai Duty Free’s six teams entered into the competition, hoping for a repeat of 2018, when our team won the Pro-Am in Ballyliffin in the company of Jon Rahm – who as golf fans will know is the newly crowned US Open champion and now world number one.
With a spring in my step, I arrived to the beautifully turned out venue yesterday morning, ready to bring my A-game and to challenge one of Ireland’s premier courses.
With the encouragement and skills of up and coming Irish pro Niall Kearney in nearby attendance, and the grand company of Damien Fox (one of my playing partners in our 2018 victory) and Conor Bartley in glorious sunshine, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, if you discount tee shots, long irons, short irons, chips and putts, not that much really. And it all began so well. I slid in a snaky 20-foot putt for birdie on the first, drawing acclaim from Niall and an acerbic “What’s seldom is wonderful” from his coach – who spent much of his day tramping through the rough looking for our missing golf balls.
The wheels came off soon after, with the divots piling up and cries of ‘fore’ breaking the rural peace (thankfully most spectators decided to attend from Thursday onwards, sparing themselves the dangers of our waywardness).
Inspired however by a sumptuous performance from Niall, who followed up a 12th place finish last week in Germany with an exquisite show of iron play – let’s hope he hasn’t peaked before the big event starts – we pulled ourselves together to shoot a fairly respectable collective -19.
That was well off the -32 pace set by Tommy Fleetwood’s team of winners. Then again, I am fairly sure they didn’t have the same sensual, ‘back to nature’ experience that we did, exploring the trees, flower beds and streams of the Mount Juliet estate in the hunt for wayward golf balls.
As this event takes place, even with limited numbers and with all of the necessary safety measures – it also offers an important sense of normality returning to Irish life.
As the country with the strictest, longest shutdown of society in Europe (one that partially continues with the government decision this week to postpone the opening of indoor dining), the fact that we could experience a real occasion, enjoy stunning surroundings in great company, supported by a warm Irish welcome, shows what we have missed and what lies ahead once this crisis passes.
Dubai Duty Free is playing its role in helping us edge towards normal once again, something we hope the many thousands who walk Mount Juliet in coming days will recognise.